BANGALORE, India: After a tortuous journey of 27 years, with over 1,500 flight-tests and almost 3,000% jump in overall developmental costs, the much-touted but long-delayed Tejas Light Combat Aircraft has finally taken the first step towards induction as a supersonic fighter into IAF.
Amid much fanfare and back-slapping, defence minister A K Antony handed over the Tejas initial operational clearance (IOC) certificate to IAF chief Air Chief Marshal P V Naik at a ceremony here on Monday.
The IOC basically means that the largely homegrown fighter is now fully airworthy, in its initial configuration, to be flown by IAF pilots but not all weapon and other systems have been fully integrated into the platform. That will happen only by December 2012 when the single-engine, multi-role fighter gets the final operational clearance (FOC).
“Today is a historic day…A state-of-the-art indigenous combat aircraft will go a long way in enhancing national security,” said Antony, showering praise on the entire LCA team led by Aeronautical Development Agency, Defence Research and Development Organisation and Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd.
The euphoria was somewhat justified, given that the supersonic fighter has been built from scratch in a country with an extremely poor defence-industrial base and in the face of international sanctions for several years.